An Assassin's Teapot

This teapot has two chambers. Liquid is released from one or the other depending on whether an air hole is covered. I want one.

Posted on July 7, 2017 at 1:01 PM • 78 Comments

Comments

EgeltjeJuly 7, 2017 1:24 PM

Tea for the missus, whiskey for the gentleman. ("Honestly dear, I poured it from the same pot!")

David RudlingJuly 7, 2017 1:27 PM

@Bruce

Please accept my apologies.

I find that I am unable to take up your kind invitation to tea.

No One Here At AllJuly 7, 2017 1:32 PM

Let me guess,

Their is poison in both cups.
You have a tolerance to the poison.

The trick tea cup was to confuse your fellow guests.

ItzmeJuly 7, 2017 1:33 PM

Bruce, if you really want one (like 50 pounds + shipping's worth), and haven't found it already, apparently you can order one here.

WaelJuly 7, 2017 1:37 PM

The design is flawed. Two main flaws! It needs to be "re-engineered". Wait a second! That implies it was engineered for security in the first place - it's not!

I don't want one. I'll design my own, thank you very much :)

TestesJuly 7, 2017 2:03 PM

would it still work if I got confused about whether or not to cover the hole?

MissAnthropicJuly 7, 2017 2:17 PM

Oooh! I can serve two types of psychedelics! Yay for Peyote and DMT night! Lol.

VJuly 7, 2017 3:30 PM

@ Testes

would it still work if I got confused about whether or not to cover the hole?

Re-watch "The Court Jester" and it will all be clear.

Clive RobinsonJuly 7, 2017 5:32 PM

@ Bruce,

Liquid is released from one or the other depending on whether an air hole is covered. I want one.

It's just one of a number of "puzzle cups/jugs", they realy are quite fascinating objects. A friend has a Toby Jug type pot where if you don't know which holes to cover around his ears and neck and which to leave open you get a rather wet shirt and quite a bit of hilarity in the onlookers.

A realy early one is the Pythagorean Cup, that works the same way a fabric conditioner draw works in a washing machine soap draw. The clay cup has a spigot in the center which is realy a siphon. If you have the cup level you can put a liquid in to a certain level, but if you tip it over to drink it starts to siphon the liquid out of the bottom of the cup.

Then of course there is the bottle that has no inside and no outside, thought up by the German mathmetician Felix Klein in the 1880s, like the Mobious strip / band / loop it only has one surface but no edge. You can get them in blown glass, I have one a friend made me that is in a mixture of dark blue and clear glass and it sits in a mahogany stand, and I use it occasionaly as a vase to hold a single flower like an orchid as a table center piece.

Piece of trivia the Klein bottle has the same problem as Cinderella's glass slipper. It was originally the Klein Surface the german word for which is similar to flask or bottle so got mistranslated. As did the fur slipper "pantoufle de vair" to glass slipper "pantoufle de verre", the medieval word "vair" was generally used for squirrel fur.

So @SecretSquirrel, if you are reading and feeling a little green around the gills "vair vert" might be appropriate...

SteveJuly 7, 2017 5:48 PM

Is it just me or does the figure on the teapot bear an uncanny resemblance to Jamie Hyneman of "Mythbusters" fame?

WaelJuly 7, 2017 7:52 PM

First flaw:

Poisoned drink and non-poisoned drink pass through the same spout. One must pour the non-poisoned drink first, which is impolite and suspicious from the guest''s perspective.

Second flow: it's possible to forget which hole to cover first. OpSec implications.

Ignoring these two flaws, suppose that problem were stated as follows;
A guest needs to "disappear" by poisoning. The guest is clever, and is suspicious of the host's intentions. So the guest is expected to:

1- Offer to switch drinking cups before the host pours the drinks, and the host must comply
2- Choose which cup the host pour the drink in first

Additionally this statement is true: If the poisoned drink passes through the spout first, then there will be enough traces of poison in the spout to make any drink that afterwards passes through it lethal.

How can the host solve this problem using the currently advertised teapot?


DanielJuly 7, 2017 9:00 PM

@wael "How can the host solve this problem using the currently advertised teapot?"

By slowly building up an immunity to the iocane powder in the tea. It is inconceivable that the victim would think of that.

WaelJuly 7, 2017 9:12 PM

@Daniel,

By slowly building up an immunity to the iocane powder in the tea.

That's one way. It doesn't use the teapot design though. This is a security question, let's say the answer is somewhat related to a well-known key exchange algorithm!

It is inconceivable that the victim would think of that.

Maybe, maybe not. It was known that ancient Egyptian kings drank small amounts of poison everyday to build immunity against such events. Perhaps other cultures did the same, but that's the one that comes to mind now.

tyrJuly 7, 2017 10:43 PM


I think Cliff Stoll of 'Cuckoos Egg'
fame sells Klein Bottles on-line.
I'm not sure what it means about his
fame.
An obvious use for the pot is to put
champagne in one side and serve your
guests beer from the other.

rJuly 8, 2017 5:37 AM

@Wael,

I think the Chinese 'hardened' themselves with saturation/micro-dosing too.

Mercury poisoning doesn't necessarily imply vaccination schemes as I've also heard of it having other qualities.

ChrisJuly 8, 2017 7:09 AM

@Daniel Ahh, but iocaine comes from Australia, as everyone knows. And Australia is entirely peopled with criminals. So you would obviously die from living with criminals way before that.

ChrisJuly 8, 2017 7:10 AM

"Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!Ahahahaha, ahahahaha, ahahaha--

TatütataJuly 8, 2017 7:50 AM

I want one.

Care to discuss the target of your urges? ;-)

Nothing new, it's essentially a repurposed teapot. I looked up patents, and found stuff in barely a few minutes. There are quite a few documents that disclose pots with a mechanism with the selective combination of ingredients (tea or coffee in the main tank, milk in the auxiliary tank) at serving:

DE539506C
DE595814C
GB506084A
GB577964A
NL1021393C2
US1807518A

The first item in the list, a German patent from 1931, is the closest to the apparent concept of the Chinese item. The opening "g" of an air vent "f" is selectively obturated by the thumb of the person holding the pot by the handle "b", permitting the second liquid to escape into the cup through the tube "e". (Click here for picture).

The first liquid mustn't be tea or coffee, and the second liquid needn't be milk. The Dutch patent from 2002 shows an electric kettle where the boiling water is mixed upon pouring with coffee concentrate.

In China tea isn't usually served with milk. [Insert here old joke about ANSI vs BSI cup of tea]. This explains perhaps why they replaced the dairy product with a poison. (There are quite a few multi-compartment teapots in Chinese documents, but I didn't have the courage to go through all of them.)

In any case, you don't need much poison to get rid of a man. Seeing the effects of polonium laced tea, I would never get my lips or any other part of my body anywhere near that teapot or its contents, even in the "safe" setting.

RachelJuly 8, 2017 11:22 AM

@ Wael
Maybe, maybe not. It was known that ancient Egyptian kings drank small amounts of poison everyday to build immunity against such events. Perhaps other cultures did the same, but that's the one that comes to mind now.

agreed, it is a flawed essentialy useless design. I had observed the various issues you recounted already. There are ways for consuming urine to build immunity to neuro toxins in the manner you describe. The whole scenario reminds me of too many films including kung fu ones. One had the martial arts master meet for tea with his enemy. As the enemy poured tea they drank and spoke of how one could not build up immunity to all poisons, some were always fatal.
The conversation concluded and the enemy vacated. The martial arts hero spat his tea back into his cup - the punch line being he had seemingly held the drink in his mouth the entire conversation without swallowing. That's a contrived example but the strategy of martial arts is rich with opsec, indeed it could be argued, it is exclusively opsec.
Hurting people is so 20th century. I'm into making friends ;-)

Clive RobinsonJuly 8, 2017 12:48 PM

@ r,

Mercury poisoning doesn't necessarily imply vaccination schemes as I've also heard of it having other qualities.

Yes it used to be known as "quicksilver" and was only available from "cinnabar" that outside of South America and China was extraordinarily rare. The Greeks were aware of it and it's rarity thus value. Cinnabar makes the pigment vermilion which is bright scarlet and was used in religious and royal ceremonies upto eight millennia ago (look up "Read Lady" burial).

In more recent times with the Victorians and earlier venereal disease was rife in Europe and could bring the most high born down to gibbering insanity and internment in the likes of the Bedlham Mad House (to be used as public attractions).

There was a belief that a small amount of mercury if drunk with wine would help those infected with VD. However it destroyed the teeth quite quickly hence even when photography became a rapid process men did not smile (some say it was due to this that the term "smile for the camera" was used as it would "expose sin").

Called "the mercury treatment" it was by and large useless as a treatment but led to arsnic and bismuth treatment that had some effect. But 1943 saw the real magic bullet, penicillin.

Though there is some evidence that the French Cheese Roqueforth was known to help with various illnesses including VD, it just so happens that it is ripened by a relative of penicillin...,

https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roquefort

Any way you can read more about the mercury treatment at,

http://jmvh.org/article/syphilis-its-early-history-and-treatment-until-penicillin-and-the-debate-on-its-origins/

Clive RobinsonJuly 8, 2017 1:38 PM

@ Tatütata,

Insert here old joke about ANSI vs BSI cup of tea

Are you refering to the old NAFI joke about NATO wanting to standardize every thing that resulted in the expression of "Standard NATO" for "Strong, milky and two sugars"?

Or perhaps, the fact, of ISO standard 3103: ‘Method for preparation of a liquor of tea for use in sensory tests.’[1], derived from the 1980 British Standard BS6008.

Being "British" however means we take things tea related more seriously hence, there are also British Standards Institute specifications for black tea (BS 3720), and for green tea (BS 11287). And (BS 7390) for "instant tea". And the now obsolete BS 6048 "specification for black tea".

However there is not a BSI standard for the rather delicate "white tea", which I'm fond of.

Of course there is not just the milk-v-lemon debate (lemon seen by some as a European perversion). But also the debate of when to add milk.

For those confused about when to add milk the rule is "first brew the tea". Thus if you are a tea bag in a mug type, add freshly drawn just off of the boil water, stir the bag in the water untill the desired strength then remove the bag and add cold fresh milk (no "plastic cow" or abomination such as "non dairy creamer"[2] or for that matter real cream, it tasts uck).

If however you brew in a pot as I do you can add the milk to the cup befor or after the tea, however there is a small taste difference. Originally the milk was added first to help avoid damaging fine almost paper thin china tea cups with thermal expansion shock. The reason for the taste difference is the extent of caramelization of components of the milk, thus only matters if the tea is very hot. If you want to realy taste the difference, try using the steamer on an espresso machine and compare the flavour when at room temprature with that of unsteamed but similarly diluted milk.

[1] https://www.iso.org/standard/8250.html

[2] Non dairy creamer is an abomination thought up by the same certifiable loonies that came up with "corn syrup" which is noe killing people by the million in the US alone. The best use I've seen for non dairy creamer is as a SFX FAE "Dry Powder Expanding Dust Cloud Explosion" (DPEDCE) which is similar to a "Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion" (BLEVE). You use two charges, the first blows the creamer that is the Fuel into an expanding cloud that mixes it with the Air making the Explosive FAE mix that the second charge sets off. Mythbusters did one once, however their mix was not optimal, however still impresive.

Who?July 9, 2017 5:33 AM

@ Clive Robinson

Do not miss the ISO 1839:1980 standard, this one remains current:

https://www.iso.org/standard/6493.html

A powerful standard! It covers description of apparatus, general information and sampling from containers (the British flavour of DoDM 5200.01 volume 1), labelling (DoDM 5200.01 volume 2) and, finally, packaging and dispatch of samples (DoDM 5200.01 volume 3).

Dr. I. Needtob AtheJuly 9, 2017 9:54 AM

As an illustration of non-falsifiability, the philosopher Bertrand Russell claimed that a silver teapot orbits the Sun between the orbits of Earth and Mars. I happen to know that it's one of these double-chamber teapots and I challenge anyone who doubts me to prove me wrong.

TS2July 10, 2017 8:51 AM

@Wael

"Poisoned drink and non-poisoned drink pass through the same spout. One must pour the non-poisoned drink first, which is impolite and suspicious from the guest''s perspective."

It's only impolite if the cup is already in front of the guest; if the host has a tray of cups, pours the cups and hands them out to the guests, he can pour the poison cup first.

But he doesn't have to. He could switch near the end of the pour of the guests cup, and flush what little poison remains in the spout with good tea. A few drops of poisoned tea shouldn't harm the guest... it's pointless to use a poison that's so potent it will kill/incapacitate with a few drops.

The tea pot is a subtle method, most likely you want to use something that doesn't act quickly, so it kills a few hours later, after the guest has left your house. The point of the pot is so that others can say "Yes, we all drank from the same pot, so it couldn't have been the tea."

TatütataJuly 10, 2017 9:42 AM

Clive,

I remembered this bit from the Jargon File from a long time ago.

Coming to think about it, tea is the ultimate staple of Imperial Britain and her industrial revolution, assembled out of sugar from the West Indies, leaves from China and India, porcelain initially from China and later Josiah's Wedgwood factories. And milk only became a mass commodity when railways made its transportation possible, and eventually electricity its conservation.

So it's not surprising that there should be an actual standard for it. There are some gems too in German DIN standards for some apparently incongruous items.

In one of my previous lives, where I was an insignificant cog of Lord Weinstock's military-industrial emporium, I worked with standards documents. In those days you had to physically walk down with your legs from engineering to the buying department, where a chest full of microfilm rolls (or was it microfiche?) was kept. There was also a case with a set of these newfangled CD records, and that was before even TIF came into existence.

When I wasn't looking up masterpieces like MIL-STD-461 [yaaawn], I did enjoy myself browsing through other rolls. There were a great many quartermaster's recipes for foodstuffs, such as chocolate brownies. (Or probably more accurately, "AN/BRN-54D Brownies, Chocolate"). The ingredients were expressed in hundreds of pounds, and there was a battery of tests the finished product had to go through for acceptance.

There was some off stuff like MIL-specs for prophylactics. IIRC, each service had its own variant. One specified 12 pieces to a package, and the other 10. I believe it was the USMC which had a specification for a non-lubricated product. (The few, the proud...) OK, I know you don't only put these on your bayonet in the army. (Reminds me of Major Kong's review of the survival kit in Dr. Strangelove).

RachelJuly 10, 2017 10:55 AM

Tautata

There was some off stuff like MIL-specs for prophylactics. IIRC, each service had its own variant. One specified 12 pieces to a package, and the other 10. I believe it was the USMC which had a specification for a non-lubricated product. (The few, the proud...) OK, I know you don't only put these on your bayonet in the army. (Reminds me of Major Kong's review of the survival kit in Dr. Strangelove).


I can't follow your references entirely but if it weren't for clues like microfiche the environment of your anecdote have an British Colonial Victorian era scent about it!!
non lubricated condoms are an extremely versatile utility in a field kit or for survival ranking alongside nylon line. They can be used for holding water, for floatation, for preserving items from moisture, amongst other off label uses. Clive will probably respond with a list of uses, a personal anecdote, a historical reference, an OpSec lesson, a joke, a double entendre, tie it in with something someone else commented a year ago, and cross reference that to a link to a cutting edge development no one else knows about, inspiring a new blog post from Bruce. Which will prompt new comments from the good folk here, which will get ripped off by acadamia POC in 5 years

All because you wrote 'non lubricated prophylactic'

sparkyJuly 10, 2017 4:46 PM

@Wael: easy, poison the cookies instead.

Alternatively, the first chamber should contain poisoned tea and the second should contain the antidote.

WaelJuly 10, 2017 5:11 PM

@sparky,

easy, poison the cookies instead.

Problem statement's "hint" didn't state the solution resembles a Cookie Poisoning attack. It said: the answer resembles a well-known key exchange algorithm (should have said protocol.) Besides, the host is a cheap scum-sucking swine and doesn't offer cookies to no one. Answer rejected.

the first chamber should contain poisoned tea and the second should contain the antidote.

But the guest may ask the tea be poured for the host first! Traces of antidote will neutralize the poison for the guest, and he'll live happily ever after! Partial credit, though :) 70%

More fun than a barrel of goats!July 10, 2017 8:52 PM

@Wael

If any subsequent pour after the poison is lethal, then the guest can either live or die depending on the host's choice. By choosing to have his cuppa first, the honorable guest can ensure the gracious host also dies. Likewise, the host can easily satisfy your criteria by way of self sacrifice.

I thought the switching of cups before pouring was a superfluous distraction. However, if antidotes are available as an option, I'd suppose that a couple of binary agents should do the trick quite nicely...

  ( (
 ......
[|    |
 \    /
  \__/
Arvo, gov'na!

WaelJuly 10, 2017 9:08 PM

@More fun than a barrel of goats!,

By choosing to have his cuppa first, the honorable guest can ensure the gracious host also dies. Likewise, the host can easily satisfy your criteria by way of self sacrifice.

They both want to live! No self-sacrifice or mutual destruction is in scope.

I thought the switching of cups before pouring was a superfluous distraction.

Not a distraction.

WaelJuly 10, 2017 9:12 PM

@More fun than a barrel of goats!,,

I'd suppose that a couple of binary agents should do the trick quite nicely...

Can you elaborate?

WaelJuly 10, 2017 9:52 PM

@More fun than a barrel of goats!,

couple of binary agents

I thought I knew what a "binary agent" means. Thought it meant a "bipolar spook"... didn't make much sense, and also redundant, so I looked it up. That's the answer I was looking for. For full credit, an elaboration is required :)

ScissorsJuly 10, 2017 11:05 PM

@Wael,
To build off @sparky's idea of an antidote, use a teapot with two compartments A and B with volumes n and 2n respectively, where n is equal to the amount served in the teacups being used. Put the antidote in A and the poison in B. When the guest arrives, fill both cups from B, emptying that side. Then the gracious host, upon finishing his tea, refills his cup from side A (leaving the teapot empty). This immunizes the host. When the guest asks for a second cup, the host can demonstrate none is left and refill the teapot with normal tea (after rinsing the antidote out). Discourteous, perhaps, to drain the teapot before the guest can refill, but the host isn't exactly courteous to begin with.

goats!July 10, 2017 11:22 PM

Can I elaborate? Probably not - I don't know bio-chemistry, but I suspect that the mercury might have been a hint somehow.

Both of the empty cups contain a different lining or residue that is not poisonous by itself, but when combined with some other substance that is also benign until mixed... ☠☹

WaelJuly 11, 2017 12:43 AM

@Scissors,

To build off @sparky's idea of an antidote, use a teapot with two compartments A and B with volumes n and 2n

Good luck finding a teapot with those specifications ;)

When the guest arrives, fill both cups from B...

Okay, that neutralizes the guest's choices. Doesn't matter which cup the host pours the tea in first.

Then the gracious host, upon finishing his tea...

Gracious, after the behavior you ascribed to him?

Then the gracious host, upon finishing his tea, refills his cup from side A (leaving the teapot empty). This immunizes the host.

That's also possible. What's to stop the host from drinking the antidote before or after the guest arrives? But then we wouldn't need this dual chamber pot! It's a slow acting poison as @TS2 (Tea Sip too?) correctly observed. That reminds me:

@TS2,

A few drops of poisoned tea shouldn't harm the guest... it's pointless to use a poison that's so potent it will kill/incapacitate with a few drops.

Potency and speed of effects can be two independent characteristics. In some situations, fast effects can be important and mean the difference between life and death, in a twisted way. Or is it death and life...

@goats!,

Why are you changing names on me, gov'na?

I don't know bio-chemistry

Neither do I. All you need to know is X + Y = Y + X. Similar to exy = eyx. Perhaps one needs two of these equations.

Both of the empty cups contain a different lining or residue that is not poisonous by itself, but when combined with some other substance that is also benign until mixed... ☠☹

That's the general idea behind the 'switching the cups' information and as you mentioned: binary agents.

PS: Under the circumstances, forgive me if I don't accept your tea offer. Nice ASCI art, by the way.

Dirk PraetJuly 11, 2017 3:30 AM

@ More fun than a barrel of goats!, @Wael

If any subsequent pour after the poison is lethal, then the guest can either live or die depending on the host's choice.

It's Schroedinger's Teapot !

sparkyJuly 11, 2017 4:22 AM

The main problem I see is that the second cup to be poured will always contain both liquids, and it is implied that a small amount of poison will be deadly and a small amount of antidote will counter any amount of poison.

If we name the compartiments A and B, the host can choose to pour either A and A+B or B and A+B. Since the guest gets to choose if he gets the first or the second cup, I don't see how there could be a solution that always works, even with an extra component in the cups.

The host could just use the pot to bash in the guests head, which we would consider a brute-force attack.

WaelJuly 11, 2017 6:03 AM

@sparky,

Since the guest gets to choose if he gets the first or the second cup

He chooses before the host pours the "tea", not after.

@Dirk Praet,

Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects.

Suddenly becomes:

Schneier's pot is a thought experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, devised by American Cryptographer and Noble prize "almost winner"[1] Toxicologist @Bruce Schneier in 2017. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Assasin's interpretation of Toxicology applied to everyday beverages.

Shortly before his Nobel prize acceptance ceremony, Ummm he invited his hosts (who became 'guests' at this point' ) to a tea party experiment after he squired his new pot. Sadly no one survived to hand him the prize.

WaelJuly 11, 2017 6:22 AM

No thanks! "It's not my cup of tea!" now has an expanded meaning.

Previous post: squired --> acquired. Formatting not essential to fix. I'll probably introduce another 'bug'...

WaelJuly 11, 2017 6:32 AM

Host: Hey, bud! Nice to see you. Have a seat, let's drink some tea!

Guest: *looks suspiciously* at his cup and says: it looks off-color, you don't have it coated with something, do you?

Host: Oh, don't be silly now! Would you like to switch cups?

Guest:Yes! This is not my cup of tea, so to speak.

Host: Not a problem! We aim to 'grease'... I mean 'please', pardon me!

sparkyJuly 11, 2017 10:43 AM

The guest first chooses their cup, and then chooses which cup is poured first; effectively, he chooses if he takes the first or second cup, but the host knows this before he starts pouring.

WaelJuly 11, 2017 11:29 AM

@spatky,

I'll try to work it out over the weekend or something. What mislead you to believe I have the solution? :)

SparkyJuly 11, 2017 1:19 PM

I think I do have a solution, and it is surprisingly simple.

Suppose the cups each contain the first part of two different binary poisons (a poison containing two ingredients, each of which individually is harmless). The two compartments of the teapot contain the other part of the two poisons. The guest chooses his cup, and the host pours the other half of the binary poison for the guests cup into both cups (the order is irrelevant). This does assume each compartment of the teapot is large enough to hold 2 cups of tea.

Alternatively, the cups contain two different poisons, and the compartments of the teapot each contain the antidotes to one of them (or vice versa). The host pours the antidote to the poison that is in his own cup into both cups, where again the order is irrelevant.


Another possible way (which doesn't need a special teapot) would be to have to poison bound to tiny particles of iron, while the host wears a ring with a strong rare-earth magnet in the hand holding the cup. The iron particles cling to the glass near the magnet, allowing the host to drink the tea without ingesting the poison. The tricky part would be that the poison would need to be nearly insoluble in water, and even if most particles could be captured, the host would probably still ingest some of it.

Yet another way would be to simply not tell the host the tea is poisoned...

ThunderbirdJuly 11, 2017 4:17 PM

The best way I can think of to solve the problem is to pour one side full of pewter. After pouring both cups (from the other side, of course), the host bashes the guest over the head with the teapot and disposes of the body.

WaelJuly 11, 2017 10:22 PM

@Sparky,

The guest chooses his cup, and the host pours the other half of the binary poison for the guests cup into both cups

Yes, that seems to work. Excellent! You saved me some weekend time. Of course the assumption is both binary poison halves don't ''play well" together.

@Nick P,

Where have you been hiding, man?

Clive RobinsonJuly 12, 2017 2:48 AM

@ TS2,

The tea pot is a subtle method, most likely you want to use something that doesn't act quickly, so it kills a few hours later, after the guest has left your house.

The problem is that untill relatively recently most poisons were of the "organic" form obtained from plants and occasionaly animals.

Plants have a complex life cycle and the poison in quite a few cases is seasonal or in some parts but not all. The point is in most cases those poisons are generally not designed to kill the animal, but deter them, thus the poisons are identifiable by tast as extreamly bitter.

Genuine "Tea" actually contains contains some poisons which could make you feel quite ill if you ate the raw leaves fresh. However drying / fermenting breaks a lot of them down. The reason for this is the plant only wants to kill some creatures that predate it with no benifit but not allanimals. Thus the plant does not want fallen leaves to kill soil based animals etc, that it has a symbiotic relationship with.

But some poisons from plants effect different creature different ways thus we have the likes of chocolate which kills dogs with very little injestion whilst the leathal does for man is so large even a choco-holic is unlikely to feel any effect.

Likewise animal derived poisons such as venoms are not designed to kill by anything other than by injection via fangs etc, and serve two purposes to debilitate the prey quickly and in some cases start the digestive process. Some are not true poisons but just temporarily inhibit certain biological process and then break down quickly (these often have medical uses in the likes of surgery).

Many other animal poisons are we now know are actually not made by the animal but bacteria that colonize it, but these are realy quite rare (see tiger fish venom).

The point being that all but a very tiny number of poisons work by "tasteless injestion" and they are comparitively rare. Thus the assassin does not have much choice on the strength or time delay.

Modern poisons made by man however are different, look up dioxin and diethyil mercury to see some real nasties, oh and perhaps one that will open your eyes wide. It has the lowest LD50 of any natural poison, it is also the most valuable substance by weight in the world, and mad as it may sound like arsenic long before it, it's used as a "beauty product" and people have parties to use it and is most commonly called "botox"...

WaelJuly 12, 2017 3:38 AM

@Clive Robinson,

The reason for this is the plant only wants to kill some creatures that predate it with no benifit but not allanimals. Thus the plant does not want fallen leaves to kill soil based animals etc, that it has a symbiotic relationship with.

So plants have intellect! What's with these evil mushrooms that kill humans? Why would they want to kill us?

Likewise animal derived poisons such as venoms

There is a difference between a poison and a venom (delivery mechanism.) I got stung by the most poisonous scorpion in the US. Twice within a minute; once in the face and once in my finger. The Arizona Bark Scorpion was the delivery mechanism. Obviously I survived and can now handle a cup of tea from this wicked teapot. Darjeeling, please.

How 'bout polonium? A lethal dosage can be measured in fractions of micrograms, and its effect is not immediate!

Clive RobinsonJuly 12, 2017 4:01 AM

@ Tatütata, Rachel,

Yes prophylactics have an interesting history in the hands of the military, including propergander.

I linked to an article in my earlier post above about "the mercury treatment" which gives a good run down of why various governments issued prophylactics to their soldiers in large numbers, and made it a chargable offence not to carry them at all times. However most soldiers have found other uses for them, including keeping dusy, dirt and water out of the business end of their personal weapons to prevent misfires or worse[1].

They also in the military "tough as old boots" form make rather usefull water carriers. The reason for this is they also "don't slosh" much infantry and similar training / action is in attacking by stealth in the dark, where the rattle of a water bottle can be a "dead" give away to those you are trying to creep up on.

Oh and they have another use as "piss pots" by special forces... As the rye saying goes "When a man has to poo what a man has to poo" for special forces it means "carrying your own 541t" literally. To minimise scent/visual tracking they collect all their waste in bags and put it in their kit and carry it with them. Suffice it to say that the "physical security" of thr liquid carrying properties of an extra strong condom are much appreciated.

Thus the need for extra large, extra strong prophylactics is real, but that did not stop various propergander people realising that going overboard on the idea could have a demoralizing effect on the enemy... So military grade prophylactics are quite large, and this as per usual squadie humour and practical sillyness gets involved. This includes putting them on your head not just as a hat but also so your nose is inside and by controled breathing from the mouth inflate them till they get extraordinarily large...

A use I and a couple of friends put them to back whilst the cold war was still on, was to fill them with helium and use them like weather balloons to hang small VHF and UHF transmitters off. We had one go from NE London all the way across the North Sea and it would have if it or the batteries not failed (not sure which) made it's way on the track it was on close to Russia as it was heard in Sweden... It's one reason I smile and get slightly mist eyed when I hear a German Punk Rock group have their record played on the air[2]. Our prophylactic balloons may not have been as many as 99 nor where they red just pinkish in some cases, but they could have baited the bear.

[1] Many rifles have what are called "flash arresters" at the end of the barrel. These slots are easy to get gravel trapped in. Thus the next time the rifle is fired the rifle gets damaged as do people around it. As a lot of military engagements are at night without light the chances of getting foreign objects in a weapon go up considerably. Thus a prophylactic over the barrel held on by a little black insulating tape is a known squadie trick.

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/99_Luftballons

RatioJuly 12, 2017 4:02 AM

@Wael,

What's with these evil mushrooms that kill humans? Why would they want to kill us?

They've just totally had it with all the anthropomorphizing.

rechercheJuly 12, 2017 4:39 AM

A slightly tangential poison/antidote story, recalled from memory,
but which I believe came from a reputable science
journalist/broadcaster:

Apparently there's some "protection racket"s going on, down at
low levels (bacterial? DNA? I forget), where some identifable
entity simultaneously manufactures a long-acting poison, and a
short-acting antidote.

As long as the host keeps the entity around, it survives, but if
the entity is booted out, then the supply of short-acting antidote
is halted, and soon the long-acting poison kills the host.

Clive RobinsonJuly 12, 2017 7:46 AM

@ Wael,

How 'bout polonium? A lethal dosage can be measured in fractions of micrograms, and its effect is not immediate!

I did differentiate on time with

    The problem is that untill relatively recently most poisons were of the "organic" form obtained from plants and occasionaly animals.
and
    "Modern poisons made by man however are different, look up dioxin and diethyil mercury to see some real nasties"
and polonium definitely falls into both exceptions ;-)

Oh Polonium is also the name of an international coach company working out of Poland, and according to some politico types in the UK causing more problems than a couple of Russian hit men protected by Putin's legislation.

Clive RobinsonJuly 12, 2017 7:56 AM

@ recherche,

    where some identifable entity simultaneously manufactures a long-acting poison, and a short-acting antidote.

You only need the poison not an antidote. Take something like diabetes, a poison only needs to stop the production of insulin permanently. The entity then manufactures the insulin by another process. There are a whole host of similar problems look up the likes of scurvy and pellegra to see what happens when humans are relient on certain chemicals (vit-C and tryptophan) their bodies do not make to survive....

WaelJuly 12, 2017 8:23 AM

@Vlive Robinson, @TS2,

I did differentiate on time with

You did. It was meant for @TS2.

RachelJuly 12, 2017 12:27 PM

Clive, Wael and others

guru/iconoclast Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh's body slowly fell apart 5 years after being arrested in the south of the US and shuffled around from county prison to county prison. In that period there was about 10 days where his whereabouts where entirely unknown. He and others claimed his food was dosed with thallium, and then was slept on a bunk or within a prison comprised of materials receptive to x-rays, with which he was dosed. His condition that eventually ended his life resembled thallium poisoning. The claim being that such a method left no trace.

Clive what you said about pellagra and scury reminded me of the common class of househould insecticide class which are anti-cholinergenic (sic). For instance dealing with cockroaches. The poison cancels out
choline in the bug, their nervous system overheats and their insides cook.

All this teapot talk reminds me of a short story by Roald Dahl. The wife murders her husband. The local bill is friendly with the wife, sniffs around the house talking about the need to find a murder weapon for any hope of resolving the matter. Meanwhile the wife insists the cop stop to enjoy her lovely leg of mutton, cooking in the oven.
Guess who just consumed the murder weapon.

WaelJuly 12, 2017 11:11 PM

@Rachel,

Meanwhile the wife insists the cop stop to enjoy her lovely leg of mutton, cooking in the oven. Guess who just consumed the murder weapon.

Depends. A lovely leg of lamb (mutton doesn't have legs; the US specimen doesn't for sure) cooking in the oven means a new weapon was in preparation. If she reheated the evidence and claimed it was a new meal, then the cop's hours were numbered.

If the "lovely leg of mutton" refers to the woman's leg, then the answer is undefined. And I don't want to go there. @Clive Robinson can have a field day with that. Lol

EvilKiruJuly 13, 2017 12:45 AM

@Wael: I took @Rachel to mean that the wife used a frozen leg of mutton as a blunt instrument to murder her husband, then thawed it, cooked it, and fed it to the cop to get rid of it.

WaelJuly 13, 2017 1:07 AM

@EvilKiru,

the wife used a frozen leg of mutton as a blunt instrument...

I thought the context was poison! However, you are correct and I'm wrong. You're more perceptive that I am. Then the kind of talk @Rachel refered to:

All this teapot talk reminds...

Meant talk related to commenters who preferred to use the teapot as a head-bashing instrument.

I insist: there is no such thing as a leg of mutton, although there are a lot of references to it on the Internet. Let me ask you a question: is there such a thing as a leg of beef? Crap, checked the internet again and it's there! That's just wrong! Either that, or my brain is too strained today.

EvilKiruJuly 13, 2017 5:42 PM

@Wael: No, I've not read that story. I just figured that if it was poisoned, re-cooking it would hardly remove the poison, so the leg must have been frozen at the time of the murder.

Clive RobinsonJuly 14, 2017 1:01 PM

@ Wael,

There was me thinking you knew about farm names and table names.

All the farm names are from old english thus sheep, pig, cow etc.

The table names are the French farm names this came about because "the language of court" was French and of Church latin (or Vatican pig code).

Thus cow = beef, pig = pork, and sheep is an oddity, and one of the few meats where the table name can also be the age related farm name.

Thus you have "spring lamb", "mutton" and "Weather Mutton" depending on the age of the sheep.

Very young beef also gets called veal, due to milk preserving. In times past bull calves were not of much use in general so had their throats slit at an early age so importantly the cow's milk and the rennet from the calves stomach could be used to make amongst other things cheese. Which would preserve the nutritional value of the milk out of season.

One of the things many people who eat goats milk cheese do not realise is that "billy goats" are getting slaughtered on mass in the same way as bull calves used to get slaughtered. The thing is that much of the meat would go to waste, if not for "the curry industry". Most people can not tell the taste of young goat from lamb, thus might not notice what's on their plate...

Clive RobinsonJuly 14, 2017 2:52 PM

@ EvilKiru, Wael,

I just figured that if it was poisoned, re-cooking it would hardly remove the poison,

I guess you don't do much "whole food cooking". You could start by looking up "red kidneybeans" and "Casava". Both can kill you if you eat them raw, however cook them at around boiling point for around ten minutes will break down the poison.

Likewise certain bacteria will poison you quite effectively. In most but not all cases the bacteria will be killed at tempratures bellow the boiling point of water. However there is one that can be found in cooked rice, because it will survive 100C and the breaking down of the rice due to cooking will kick start it to reproduce rapidly (it's why the recommend you don't keep cooked rice for very long).

Any way as Douglas Adams observed through his charecter Ford Prefect "The secret to survival whilst hitchhiking is eat fast food".

CutangleJuly 16, 2017 11:58 AM

Explanation(?): "... there is a high chance that the molecular bonds will be able to resist the gravity trying to pull it out of a spout" ...
oh boy. is this what passes for physics these days? Look up "Torricelli's experiment", "Communicating vessels", etc. Remember "Horror vacui"? Well, there are two columns of liquids involved: the column of air (a.k.a. atmospheric pressure) and the tea. I order for the tea to escape the spout with its air hole covered - thus creating vacuum in the pot - the tea column would have to weigh more that the counterbalancing air column - the pot itself would have to be abut 30 feet (10m) tall and full of tea. Molecular bonds do play some role in creating surface tension to prevent air from exchanging with the tea through the spout - the familiar gurgling sound. Hence, the spout must be small.

Clive RobinsonJuly 17, 2017 11:48 AM

@ Cutangle,

I order for the tea to escape the spout with its air hole covered - thus creating vacuum in the pot...

It's a bit more complex than that as a simple experiment shows. Find a flexible plastic bottle that will not melt or deform when a hot liquid is poured in. Then gently squease the bottle to remove some of the air then screw the top on tightly. If you then shake the bottle it will expand out due to the energy from the hot liquid transfering into the remaining air causing it's effective preasure to rise[1].

How much energy gets transferred into the air in the top of the poison chamber and how much it consequently expands due to the agitation involved with pouring I don't know (due to insufficient details). But it is reasonable to assume that some of the poison tea may well get into the cup that is not intended to be poisoned...

[1] If you can not find a bottle that is sufficiently heat proof, you can do the experiment in reverse, by pouring in very cold liquid screwing the top on shaking the bottle and watching atmospheric preasure crush the bottle as the energy in the air inside is taken up by the cold liquid.

RachelJuly 17, 2017 12:21 PM

@ Clive

your comments remind me of the ingenuity displayed in cardbox box shanty towns in India whereby residents are salvaging scores of disposed plastic bottles, cutting them in half, and inserting them into the walls of their cardboard houses, small end facing in. Hot air is compressed and cooled by the narrowing of the bottle, and dozens of such bottles becomes a significant air conditioning system.
Not only do I admire this I feel pleased for them

GuestJuly 17, 2017 3:21 PM

Pour (or spoon) a small amount from each cup into the other. Repeat until tea is cool enough to drink. (A saucer is more traditional, but many cups are not designed for controlled pouring in small amounts, and amount are limited by the amount less than full the cups are.)

SparkyGSXJuly 17, 2017 3:38 PM

Rachel: I very much doubt the physics of that story; tell me how exactly air is cooled by compression? Compressing air actually heats it (you may want to look up Boyle's law of ideal gasses).

If you'd say the air cools be expansion after passing through the bottle, how is this not by exactly the same amount and the heating was during compression, plus a little because of the drag in the bottle, where kinetic energy in the wind is converted into thermal energy.

Let's look at it another way: if thermal energy is being remove from the air, where exactly is it going?

@Cutangle, Clive: besides the expansion of any air in the chamber because it would be heated by the hot tea, any trapped air would also expand a little when the pressure is reduced by the partial vacuum created when the pot is tilted with the hole closed, until there is sufficient negative pressure (relative to the pressure surrounding the pot) to keep more poison tea from pouring out. Depending on the size of the air chamber, some poisoned tea will have to come out in order to create the partial vacuum needed to keep the rest in.

Clive RobinsonJuly 17, 2017 5:25 PM

@ SparkyGSX,

>>

Not sure of the physics myself, but the story appears to have some basis in fact,

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3635710/How-cool-apartment-free-Electricity-free-DIY-aircon-uses-old-plastic-bottles-used-used-25-000-Indian-homes.html

My guessing is that it involves both the chimney and ventury effect. When Spain had the Olympics some years ago they used similar shaped objects but big enough to get 50-100 people underneath. With the nozzle end upper most they sprayed a fine mist of water into the neck just below the nozzle.

So yes there is the potential that the idea might work, but I must admit it's quite a few years since I did calculations on the Bernoulli effect and continuity equation needed to work it out. But I do know there are others who have used them to design passively cooled housing.

With regards,

Let's look at it another way: if thermal energy is being remove from the air, where exactly is it going?

Where does it go in a heat engine like a tornado?... It produces movment of the air...

EvilKiruJuly 19, 2017 1:48 AM

@Clive: In other words, I stumbled into getting it right by starting from a false premise. Which just goes to show I'm not half as clever as I think I am. ^(=.=)^

Clive RobinsonJuly 19, 2017 3:26 AM

@ EvilKiru,

Which just goes to show I'm not half as clever as I think I am. ^(=.=)^

Oh I don't know that's a fairly good emoji of Neko the cat as a ninja assassin ;-)

More seriously, it's a demonstration of why science has both experimental and theoretical paths.

If you have kids who have got to the exam stage in school physics you get to see some realy fun questions. One in the physics revision notes was about a person leaping out an aircraft and their rate of acceleration after a minute...

Now most people will get it wrong, and even those who get it right will usually do so for the wrong reason (including the exam answer in the back of the book).

The reason is, whilst they might consider drag, they often forget change in air density, and almost never include buoyancy. That is terminal velocity goes down as you descend because air density increases thus the buoyancy changes as well... Especially when the density of the ground is reached, and acceleration is close enough to zero for the body to be considered "at rest" in more ways than one ;-)

As was pointed out to me by a fairly good teacher of physics many many years ago "Physics is taught as one lie after another, each a little closer to the truth".

Dirk PraetJuly 19, 2017 4:07 AM

@ Clive

As was pointed out to me by a fairly good teacher of physics many many years ago "Physics is taught as one lie after another, each a little closer to the truth".

As opposed to politics and religion: "One lie after another, each a little further from the truth".

Clive RobinsonJuly 19, 2017 6:40 AM

@ Dirk Praet,

"One lie after another, each a little further from the truth".

That almost exactly sums up what I tell my son ;-)

I give him helpful hints such as,

    The best place to be when there is trouble, is somewhere else.

Then I teach him bit by bit situational awareness so he can spot trouble brewing up long before it boils over.

But I've told him as I have people here,

    Truth is a mater of perspective, thus there is one more truth than there are observers

Which leads into a conversation about the three main types of lies,

1, Lies of ommission.
2, White lies.
3, Lies of perspective.
4, Outright lies.

And how to spot 1&4 and why 2&3 exist and how they can glue society together. I've also told him about "perspective shifting" and how to spot people who are doing it themselves and those who are trying to do it to you. I've also mentioned when a "Bold lie" works and why and what it's limits are and why they sometimes have to be used (ie when you are in effect in charge of a group or need to take charge of a group that need to stick/work together for their own well being).

But the important lesson I mention to him often is to evaluate what you know against what you are being told. If something you are being told disagrees with what you know then there is something wrong with either what you are being told or what you know. The hard part is getting him to understand what constitutes proof and what does not. It's caused a degree of friction due to a course they "have to take" that is so obviously biased it's unbelievable... Worse it's effective lies have secondary effects. They get given questions about morals where the script is religious people are moral and religious people are truthfull. Thus trying to brain wash children into a false belief that religion is about truth and morals and thus the secondary conclusion that those who do not believe in an all seeing deity are not truthfull or moral. Iv'e pointed out that there are religions that do not have gods but still teach about truth and morals, and I've also pointed out there are groups of people who require neither a God or orchastrated belief system to be honest and moral. I've also had no trouble what so ever finding examples of those who claim to have both an orhcistrated religion and God that are clearly nrither moral or truthfull.

It led to a long conversation as to why he would have to lie to pass the examination. Which in turn led to a conversation about the politicians with apparently strong religion but why (in the UK) they were considerably more dishonest than the average citizen (the simple fact being that politicians are four times more likely to go to jail in the UK than the average person who has no criminal conviction).

Thus he is growing up in a way I suspect many politicians don't want him to do, and already spot's many of their lies straight off...

WaelJuly 22, 2017 2:37 AM

@Clive Robinson,

Most people can not tell the taste of young goat from lamb

That's true! I can't sometimes.

thus might not notice what's on their plate...

It gets a whole lot worse. One day we had short notice of guests that will visit us. We only had one really small fish and weren't ready to buy more food. We fried the fish and kept the oil. We also made stock out of the fish's head. We then peeled a watermelon and removed the green skin, then we cut the watermelon peal into nice squares that resemble fish filets, scored them with a knife to resemble flesh fiber. We boiled the peal in the fish stock and some of the "fishy" oil. We then marinated the watermelon peal in lemon juice, salt, pepper, cumin and cilantro. Then we battered the peal and fried it in the saved oil. Our guests liked the "fish". I told them after dinner what they ate. Some didn't believe it, and some got irritated... In some countries, this trick is used to make more profit. Next time you eat fried fish... don't ask what kind of fish it is, because you may hear: fish? It's watermelon, dawg! I think this is on topic :)

By the way, watermelon peal including the green skin is supposedly "good" for men with certain ailments ;)

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